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Board Member Spotlight: Deborah Northcross

Deborah Northcross has been a part of the New Ballet Ensemble board for more than a decade — since 2008. Currently, she serves as Chair of the Board. While her impact on the New Ballet community can be felt by everyone, she and her family are also deeply ingrained in the city of Memphis.

In the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the notion of “separate but equal” unconstitutional. It was a landmark decision, which made it illegal to separate public schools based on race.

Four years after the ruling at 8 years old, Deborah found herself as one of the plaintiffs in Northcross v. Memphis Board of Education. To her, being a part of this case meant moving the needle forward. It was moving one step closer to following the law of the U.S. Supreme Court established in the Brown decision — that all segregated schools must be integrated with all deliberate speed.

Access to education is important, but ensuring equal access is key. That’s New Ballet’s mission and vision — to provide a professional standard of dance training to all children in Memphis and Shelby County, regardless of ability to pay. This is why Deborah supports New Ballet. “I chose to support New Ballet because I believe in its mission and purpose, which somewhat aligns with the work I was committed to in my career as a TRIO professional,” Deborah said. Throughout her career, she supported and advanced students from first generation and disadvantaged backgrounds.

“Equal access to education, including arts education, broadens horizons, increases opportunities, and provides hope,” Deborah said. “Pathways puts our arts education vision on a clear trajectory for more and more students.” In collaboration with Memphis and Shelby County schools, New Ballet’s Pathways Program brings weekly tuition-free dance classes to public schools around the city. This program also extends beyond dance education by providing mentors, family engagement and assistance programs and free after-school transportation to any students who decide to dance at the Cooper-Young studios. 

As Board Chair, Deborah believes having a diversity, equity and inclusion statement displayed for the public to see expresses the inclusive work New Ballet has historically done. By committing to its mission and DEI statement, New Ballet will continue to ensure it remains inclusive and accessible to a diverse array of students.

2014: Michelle Obama with Katie Smythe, New Ballet’s founding CEO and Artistic Director and Briana Brown, former New Ballet student.

2014: New Ballet artists perform “Harlem” at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts with the National Symphony Orchestra.

One of Deborah’s favorite memories from her time with New Ballet was receiving the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award in 2014, which was presented by then first lady Michelle Obama. She also recalls when New Ballet was invited to perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. While she’s always in awe of New Ballet performances, this one had her on the edge of her seat as she watched dancers perform “Harlem” with the National Symphony Orchestra. 

Deborah is proud of the current and future vision and mission of New Ballet, and New Ballet is honored to have her leadership on its board.

Posted by New Ballet at February 28, 2024